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As a Broad Spartan and as Carhartt president and COO, Linda Hubbard champions ethical leadership

By Taylor Hindman, student writer
Monday, November 6, 2023
Linda Hubbard

Linda Hubbard

The Broad College warmly welcomed alumna Linda Hubbard (B.A. Accounting ’82), president and chief operating officer of Carhartt, as the executive guest at the 2023 Sylvan T. Warrington Visiting Lectureship in Ethics and Leadership. During this annual event, distinguished alumni from the Broad College lend their experiences to the conversation and offer insightful advice to guide the next generation of business leaders.

On Oct. 12, hundreds of undergraduate and MBA students had the privilege of hearing Hubbard and Interim Dean Judith Whipple in a “fireside chat,” exploring the vital topics of ethics in business, Hubbard’s leadership style and more.

Building a foundation at Michigan State and beyond

As a first-generation college student, Hubbard expressed immense gratitude for her time at Michigan State, describing it as a pivotal and transformative chapter in her life. Hubbard’s involvement within the Broad College is both commendable and appreciated. As she reminisced about her time along the banks of the Red Cedar, she encouraged students to celebrate the small victories.

“If you can participate in groups and have some small successes while at Michigan State, it will serve you well. It will build your confidence. Find the small wins. Invest your time and focus to be part of something that will keep you busy and fulfilled.”

After graduating from MSU, Hubbard said she found small successes and greater ones in her public accounting career at Plante Moran, which spanned two decades. As an intern there, she worked on the Carhartt account. Hubbard ultimately became a partner with Plante Moran while continuing her longtime client relationship with Carhartt. In 2002, the company recruited her as its chief financial officer. Hubbard became president and COO of Carhartt in 2013.

Carhartt’s enduring culture and core values

As a well-respected Michigan-based company, Carhartt prides itself on being a workwear brand rather than a fashion brand. It’s built a strong reputation over its 134-year history, and as the first non–family member in the role of president, Hubbard is proud to extend Carhartt’s legacy of success today.

“There is something about our American heritage and ethos that respects people that work hard for a better life for themselves and their families,” she said. “Honoring hard work and all the people in America doing that work is a unifying principle for us at Carhartt.”

The company’s mission, which is to “build rugged products to serve and protect all hardworking people,” has always strongly resonated with Hubbard.

She explained how the mission statement informs the company’s core values, broken up into three main principles: “The first being ‘Act like Hamilton Carhartt; be inspired by hardworking people,’ the second being ‘Respect the past but walk bravely into the future’ and finally ‘Do the right thing: work with honesty and integrity.’”

[A great leader is] a leader that is visible, a leader that is accountable, a leader that is valuable.

Leadership in action

Carhartt’s culture is a source of pride for Hubbard, and she seamlessly integrates it into her leadership style. In 2019, Hubbard made a meaningful return to the Broad College, delivering that spring’s commencement address and sharing valuable insights on the ethics of leadership.

When asked what makes a great leader, Hubbard answered, “A leader that is visible, a leader that is accountable, a leader that is valuable.” She underscored the significance of leading a team and leading yourself, highlighting three essential traits: be dependable, be resilient and be authentic.

Under Hubbard’s leadership, Carhartt has achieved many significant milestones, including the successful launch of its women’s line, a notable expansion into the online space and the establishment of branded retail stores.

Advice for today’s Spartans

The Warrington Lecture is designed to not only cover critical business topics in an open discussion but also allow students to engage with the guest speaker. Hubbard shared advice with the eager students and answered questions from the audience about navigating ethical challenges, the remote work environment and facing adversity.

One of the biggest takeaways for students from Hubbard’s comments was to be your own advocate. She said, “Ask for what you want. When I think back to some of the major milestones of my career, most of the success I achieved was because of an opportunity that I wanted and asked for. Sometimes I didn’t ask, and those opportunities didn’t come my way. If you don’t ask, people may not know what you are looking for and what you can achieve.”

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